"Long after they've forgotten what you taught them, they will remember how you treated them."
-author unknown

Friday, December 16, 2011

5 Ways to Help Your Young Adolescent Be Successful in Middle School

An article with the same title is posted in the usual spot to the right.  I have heard the experts talk (and write) about the developmental difficulties that go along with being a young adolescent.  While I believe they are right, what about the job of parenting a young adolescent?  Not exactly a walk in the park.  We always love them, but don't always like the way they behave or treat us.  Below I'll summarize the key points this article makes to help those of us that are smack dab in the middle school roller-coaster with our kids.

1. Have a candid conversation with your child about expectations for the year and what works and does not work for their success.
Be frank with your child about your expectations for them.  After all, if they don't know the target, they can't hit it.  Inquire about their expectations for themselves.  Goal setting can be an off shoot of this conversation.  Setting reasonable, achievable and measurable goals is a life long skill that they are quite capable of completing successfully.  Revisit these goals often!

2.  Talk to your child every day!
 I know that sometimes they don't seem to listen.  I know that sometimes they seem like they don't want to talk.  However, they are listening and they do want you to start conversations about what is going on in their lives.   

3.  Contact school regularly (phone, email, visit web sites).
It is very important to keep in touch with school regularly.  Don't wait for a call if things aren't going well.  As mentioned above, there are numerous communication avenues.  Phone calls, emails, interaction through our website and the good old-fashioned conference.  Sometimes just knowing that you are in regular contact with school helps students.  Infinite Campus (IC) is a crucial element to tracking your child's progress.  24/7 access to grades and assignments is the ultimate in convenience.  Please contact school if you are having trouble accessing IC.   

4.  Encourage involvement in non-academic activities.
There are many non-academic pursuits out there, some related to school, some not.  Students' spend many hours and brain cells on their academic tasks each day.  It can be beneficial to have opportunities for exercise and social interactions outside of the school day. Athletics, Drama, Rec Club, my son has recently taken up archery.  It has had a calming effect on him.  Often these pursuits cause cognitive challenges that can enhance their learning in school.    

5.  Let them explore independence (safely). 
'Tis the age for seeking independence.  It is a delicate balance between holding them back and letting them go.  Too much on either end can lead to difficulties.  Every child is different and needs different boundaries from their parents.  This is an area where the conversation is really important, as is reflection.  Parents don't always get it right, but don't stop asking questions and reflecting upon your parental decisions.

I hope this entry did not come across too much like an advice column.  My intent was to combine some research with life experience, both as a parent of an 8th grader and as someone who has spent a few years working with this age group.  Feedback welcome!  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ever wonder why we have the schedule we do?

Scheduling is never an easy thing.  However, it is important to have the structures in place to support good teaching and learning.  The staff worked hard last spring to overhaul last year's schedule.  It worked and while no schedule is perfect, we are so much better off.  Why are we better off?

1. Our instructional blocks are longer.  65 minutes that does not include transition time.  2.  Grade level teachers have common planning time everyday.  This is a big deal, allowing our staff to collaborate, improve instruction, examine data and provide common experiences across pods.  3.  Intervention times exist for students on a daily basis (30 - 60 minutes).  Students not below standard get to have some enrichment activities (student blog, technology explorations, etc).  4.  There is an advisory period at the beginning and end of every day allowing for more contact with a trusted and caring adult.

If you are able to read the associated research article posted on the right-hand "nav. bar," you'll see several types of schedules mentioned.  We have a combination of a block schedule and alternate day schedule.  Our Unified Arts classes rotate (alternate), but not our core classes.  Our core classes are longer (blocks) to provide more instructional time.

While no two middle school schedules are alike, they generally have guidelines to provide structures to enhance learning.  Gone are the days of the 45 to 50 minute periods that happen 7 times per day.  Longer instructional blocks allow for cooperative learning strategies and for students to go further in depth with topics.  Learning isn't as rushed with these longer blocks.

We meet early in the spring to review the master schedule and to make any necessary changes.  We hope to make only a few changes this coming year.  Parental input is always welcome!


Friday, December 2, 2011

OHMS' 7/8 Looping Structure

Many of you already know, but if you don't, OHMS has a grade 7/8 looping structure in place.  This is our first year and initial reviews are very positive.  So what does this mean?  This years' seventh graders will have the same teachers next year.

Why do we have this structure in place?  There are a number of reasons for looping.  Some are explained in the "Research on Looping" link on the right hand navigation bar.  Middle schoolers are special kids with specific developmental and social needs.   We know this already, especially you the parents.  One of the major tenets of the "middle school philosophy" is to have adult advocates for all of our students.  There is also a greater understanding of the importance of a healthy rapport/relationship between teacher and student.  This takes time to develop, as is with any relationship.  It almost seems a shame to have to start this process all over again each year.  Teachers can save time in the fall picking up where they left off in the spring.  Knowledge of each student's strengths, weaknesses and learning styles is essential for ensuring student's success.  Now teachers will have this knowledge for two years.  Think of the possibilities!

Why not loop 6-8?  Some schools do have this structure.  My son's school does.  However, we have realized that the 5/6 transition is a huge move for our kids.  Our current 6th grade team has a particular skill set and are able to provide a smooth and more effective transition.  Having the same 6th grade team also allows an ease of conversation with Carrie Ricker School and their 5th grade team.

Does looping always work?  Of course nothing always works.  There are options if you or your child feel that looping with the same teachers may not be in the student's best interest.  While we generally wish not to interrupt the benefits of looping, please contact the school if you would like to discuss options that are different than looping.

Looping is only one of a number of ways that OHMS tries to meet the specific developmental needs of your child.  This entry is an attempt to help parents understand why we loop.  Please take a minute to read the posted article about looping.  I think it will add some clarity.  Feel free to call or email if you'd like to have further conversations about this or any other topic related to OHMS and the education we deliver.   

Friday, November 18, 2011

Develop Your Child's Many Ways of Being Smart

I recently participated in a professional development opportunity and was presented with a number of resources.  The article I site below was among these resources.  To be completely honest, I first read this article with the perspective of being a father.  Like many of you, I have two children and sometimes it is hard to believe they come from the same gene pool. How do we (my wife and I) guide our kids to be the best people they can be?  It is a question we ask ourselves frequently.  Parents have the most and best knowledge of their kids (our students).  This knowledge paired with some educational research can be powerful.

The concept of Multiple Intelligences is not a new one, but one that has stood the test of time.  Every kid is smart.  They are often smart in different ways.  Some kids do better when they hear information, some need to see the information and some need to be moving and experience new concepts.  Many kids show strengths with interpersonal skills and others are introspective and deep thinkers.  Any of these sound familiar to you?

At school we try to include activities in our units of study that tap into all or most of these strengths.  This way all kids can use their strengths to show what they know.  It is also beneficial to have students participate in activities that are not in their area of strength.  This will further develops their skill sets.

In the article, activities are mentioned that connect with each type of intelligence so you, the parent, can recognize and foster the development of these attributes.  Recognize the intelligences in your child.  Feel free to call your child's teacher and let them know what you've discovered (or perhaps what you've known all along)! 

P.S.  Please excuse the typo in the title of the article if you download it!   


Friday, November 4, 2011

The OHMS Advisory System

What is advisory and why do our students have this as part of their schedule?

Advisory is part of every student's schedule.  It starts at 7:40 AM and ends at 7:55 AM.  During this time a number of things occur.  Lunch count, attendance and the Pledge of Allegiance and morning check-ins are done every day.  Students are dismissed daily at 2:05 PM from their last academic class.  At this time, students go to advisory for a "check out" of sorts.  Often, advisors will check with their students about how their day went and look at their agendas. Grade checks are also a routine event.

When OHMS has a whole school assembly, field trip or other non-traditional educational opportunity, we often organize the event using advisory groups.  Students sit or participate in their groups.  Advisors work to form a rapport with their students with the end result being every OHMS student has a trusted adult to go to for support.  This is a foundational philosophy for OHMS.  Parents should ask their child about their advisor.  Parents should feel comfortable to reach out to the advisor for assistance or support.

This year we are working on a thematic approach to each grade level's advisory program.  Data is being collected through student surveys to measure the effectiveness of each grade level's programming.  6th grade advisors have their groups for one year.  7th grade advisors stay with their groups through the end of 8th grade.  

You will find on the links bar a synthesis of research that supports advisory systems in middle schools.  It is from the National Middle School Association (NMSA).  You will also find a link to the NMSA website on the front page of this blog.  As always, we appreciate an input or feedback you have about your (or your child's) experiences with the OHMS advisory program.     

Monday, January 17, 2011

1-17-11 We Believe

"This We Believe" is the name of a belief statement created and published by the National Middle School Association (the link to this organization is on the right side of the blog).  This belief statement comes as a result of many years of research on best practice in middle schools.  Prior to school beginning, the OHMS staff examined some of this work.  We sought to put into writing what we as a staff believed about educating middle school students.  Through discussion and collaboration, the staff arrived at a set of statements that summarized our beliefs, called "We believe:"

"We believe:

-in making collaborative decisions that are based on a shared vision in order to achieve the goals of our learning community.

-in high expectations for every learner and in providing meaningful, active, engaging and rigorous educational experiences that meet the diverse needs of students.

-in making informed decisions about student learning based on all relevant data pertaining to the WHOLE student.

-in providing all students with an adult advocate in a safe, respectful, supportive and caring environment.

-in providing students with a staff who value and appreciate the unique characteristics of middle school students.

in the importance of involving our parents and community as a vital voice in the education of our students."

We seek to make decisions at OHMS that are in line with these beliefs.  The OHMS staff will be completing an assessment of our current structure and how it relates to these beliefs.  You will find them posted in each classroom as well as various other places in the school.  If you have questions or comments about these beliefs or the research that supports them, please feel free to contact me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1/7/11- First blog

So, this is my first blog.  You may be asking: Why blog?  Why now?  I have had a number of conversations about the best ways to get information to parents and to the public.  A clear answer is to use the technology available and to use the most common methods.  A blog seemed to make sense.  I will be seeking to share current events at OHMS along with information and literature around middle school education.

As an example, this is a good time to remind parents that the second quarter will be coming to an end on January 21st.  It is always a good idea to check in with your child's teachers and to check his/her grades on Infinite Campus.

Thanks for reading my first blog and any constructive feedback would be most welcome!